Jaguar recently introduced its first all-electric vehicle, the I-PACE. The vehicle features a strong and stiff lightweight aluminum construction to reduce weight and increase battery range up to 470 km while delivering superior driving dynamics and safety. Novelis Inc. is a major supplier of aluminum sheet for the body and battery frame of the vehicle. While at the ALUMINIUM 2018 trade show in October, Light Metal Age took part in a discussion with Novelis representatives — Emilio Braghi, president of Novelis Europe, and Michael Hahne, vice president Automotive, Novelis Europe — regarding the use of aluminum in the I-PACE.
Electric vehicle growth is projected to increase significantly in the next decade leading to changes in physical and functional requirements in body-in-white impacting future vehicle design. Novelis is working to collaborate with OEMs, such as Jaguar Land Rover, on how to adopt aluminum in body-in-white and offer solutions to meet the new requirements, such as modules for batteries or HV components, integration of electric engines, changes in weight distribution, or frontal crash concepts.
The Jaguar I-PACE is designed and engineered to take full advantage of its smart electric powertrain and maximize the potential of the benefits the vehicle brings. “In terms of requirements from the customer side, it’s opening up a lot of new technology,” said Hahne. “Because it’s a pure electric vehicle, the packaging is different and the safety requirements are completely new.” The I-PACE was designed and engineered by Jaguar Land Rover in the U.K., and Novelis began its cooperation with the OEM early in the vehicle’s design stage. “We have technical development cooperation with Jaguar Land Rover, in which we act on both the product development and the technical support levels in terms of material performance.”
The bespoke electric vehicle’s aluminum architecture is comprised of 94% aluminum, enabling significant weight reduction and meeting all the necessary design requirements, such as purity of line, surface, and proportion. Advanced riveting and bonding technology are used to deliver a light, stiff body structure. In addition, the structure incorporates the battery module, which itself is a combination of aluminum sheet and extrusions, in such a way as to ensure efficient use of its mass and provide the a torsional rigidity of 36 kNm/degree — the highest of any Jaguar and a level of rigidity usually reserved for sports cars. The battery is placed centrally between the two axles and as low down as possible with a seal between the housing and the underfloor. This location enables perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a low center of gravity, which delivers agile handling and outstanding ride comfort.
“What is important to understand with electric vehicles is that lightweighting is still a very important factor,” said Braghi. “When you compare similar models in the market — both internal combustion engine and electric — there is a higher weight on the electric vehicle in the range of 200-500 kg. The higher weight is related to the battery, so the battery pack is increasing the burden in terms of weight. Lighter weight gives you better performance in terms of durability of the battery, performance of the car, acceleration, etc. We do see in this transition from internal combustion engine to electric models that an important role will be played by aluminum.”
Novelis is a key supplier of the aluminum products used in the I-PACE, which are sourced from the company’s plants in Sierre, Switzerland, and Nachterstedt, Germany. “The body-in-white is representing 400 kg of aluminum sheet,” said Hahne. “We supply these sheet products, which is basically everything except for some of the extrusion and casting parts. Our business includes the entire housing of the body-in-white, including the hang on parts, hoods, doors, fenders.”
The vehicle uses a mix of 5000 and 6000 series aluminum alloys, which are incorporated based on the necessary performance requirements of the components. “The alloys are differentiated into formability aspects,” explained Hahne. “For example, the floor of the vehicle requires high levels of formability, while for the strength related components, like in the longitudinal pillars, you need a lot of stiffness and rigidity along with formability.”
The I-PACE is being manufactured in Austria as part of a manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr. “Another important element regarding the current model is that this is building up a new supply chain in the mainland,” said Hahne. “Up until this point, all Jaguar Land Rover models have been built in the U.K. This is the first Jaguar model that is being produced on the mainland in Europe.” According to Hahne, this is good for Novelis in terms of business development, since it provides new supply routes for their aluminum sheet material.
Both Novelis and Jaguar Land Rover have a common vision of delivering a cleaner future and more sustainable vehicles. The companies hold a leading position in sustainability by using high recycled-content alloys on all Jaguar Land Rover body structures that reduces the overall carbon footprint in their products. Since 2013, the Novelis recycling plant in Latchford, UK has provided the British car manufacturer with a closed-loop recycling solution by converting the car manufacturer’s aluminum production scrap metal into new material for automotive sheet.
“We are the world’s largest recycler and I think that fits well into the context of the story of e-mobility and sustainability,” said Hahne. “In automotive, especially with Jaguar Land Rover, we have a few dozen closed-loop systems, where we are using up to 80-90% of recycling material. On an annual basis, Jaguar Land Rover delivers to us 50,000 tonnes of production scrap, which is equivalent to 200,000 new Jaguar XE models and reduces CO2 emission by 500,000 tonnes.”
Future Cooperation with Automotive OEMs
Following the ALUMINIUM event, Novelis announced plans to establish a global network of Customer Solution Centers (CSCs) to accelerate its collaborative innovation with automakers for the development of the next generation of vehicle design. The facilities will be led by teams of industry-leading researchers, designers , and engineers located in close proximity to automaker manufacturing sites in North America, China, and Europe. The first center will open in Novi, Michigan, with subsequent centers to follow in Europe and China.
“The global auto industry is experiencing disruptive change in nearly every dimension, including electrification, autonomy and accelerated development times,” said Steve Fisher, president and CEO, Novelis Inc. “To meet rapidly evolving demands, we are developing the CSCs to help our customers innovate with aluminum for tomorrow’s lighter, safer and better performing vehicles.”
The CSCs will bring research and technical platforms, operations and commercial development together to increase collaboration and innovation. Each center will include high-tech development machinery ranging from computer-aided design (CAD) software to virtual collaboration capabilities and visualization technologies. Research and development projects will include work to determine how to maximize lightweight, high-strength aluminum in order to design the best solutions for specific applications at the right cost to better compete against steel and other materials. In addition, the centers will provide an environment to demonstrate product concepts, simulate customer processes, and performance in use, as well as leverage data to educate stakeholders throughout the supply chain about elements, ranging from forming to cost.
Initially, Novelis working groups will be devoted to the following specific initiatives:
- Automotive Application Development: Engineers are using competitive, affordable aluminum solutions to achieve a variety of innovations, particularly the benefits of lightweighting, to bring customer-centric development projects to market. Significant time and investment are being made to help manufacturers develop high-strength components for applications ranging from car doors to electric battery enclosures to full “body in white” (BiW) design.
- Innovative, High-Strength, High-Forming Alloys: Novelis is currently bringing to market the next generation of high-strength aluminum alloys. Advanz™ 6HS-s650, Advanz 7UHS-701, and Advanz 7UHS-s702 will give automakers the highest-strength aluminum choice for body-in-white structural applications. In addition, automakers have been increasingly using Novelis Fusion™ 6HF-e200, a heat treatable solution for applications requiring deep drawing, such as complex body sides.
- Joining Technology: Teams of Novelis research and technology professionals are developing ways to increase the adoption of aluminum through its ability to join with other materials as more vehicles are mixed-material. The Fusion technology is proving advantageous for the spot-welding and laser-welding needed for mixed-material architectures.
In addition to material and design application support, as part of its purpose to shape a sustainable world together, the CSCs will provide sustainable process recommendations such as closed-loop recycling systems and the use of more alloys with higher recycled content to help curb CO2 emissions and establish more secure supply chains.
“The automotive industry is entering a period of transformative change and relying on partners to provide solutions to help them build the cars of the future,” said Pierre Labat, vice president, Global Automotive, Novelis Inc. “By creating another new way to engage with automakers, along with a physical space that inspires innovation, we are better prepared to make our customers more successful.”